Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bill to Establish Auditors of Public Accounts, [5 December 1776]

Bill to Establish Auditors of Public Accounts

For the regular settlement of all Publick accounts, Be it enacted by the general Assembly of the commonwealth of Virginia, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same; that an Auditor General of accounts shall henceforth be established to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the privy council and continued in office during good behaviour1 and it shall be the business of the said auditors to examine, state and settle all publick accounts of Sheriffs and other Collectors, according to the Laws of this commonwealth and to certifie the same to the Treasurer, to examine and settle all claims against the country for Sallarys of the necessary officers of Government and other accounts as established by Law, and issue his warrant on the Treasurer for the payment of the same to be countersign’d by the Governor. And he shall receive and examine all accounts of the Navy board, and of the commissioners of the Army, which shall come certified to him and issue his warrants as before on the Treasurer for the payment of the same specifying in each warrant the nature and amount of the account for which it is issued and the said Auditor shall keep regular accounts of the expenditure of all sums of money for the different departments, which together with his vouchers for the same shall be laid before the General Assembly or the Governor and Council when thereunto required.2

And whereas in time of War the multiplicity of business and urgency of frequent demands, makes it more especially necessary to adopt some further and more adequate mode of expediting the publick business and the time limited by ordinance for the appointment of Commissioners for that purpose being nearly expired, Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid that two Commissioners of the Army shall be appointed in manner aforesaid, whose duty it shall be to examine, state, and certifie all accounts relative to the Army to the Auditor General. And the said Commissioners shall have power to administer oaths for the proof of accounts referred to them and3 shall keep regular books of accounts to be laid before the General Assembly or the Governor and Council when required, and the said auditor and4 each of the said Commissioners shall receive the sum of fifteen shillings5 ⅌ day during his continuance in office for his service therein.

And be it further enacted that the Governor with the advice and consent of the Privy council, shall have full power and authority to suspend the said Auditor or Commissioners for neglect of duty, misbehaviour in office or for any other cause to them appearing and certifie the cause of such suspension to the next succeeding General Assembly.6

Dft (Vi). Clerk’s copy, with interlineations by TJ and two other unidentified hands. Docketed: “A Bill to Establish Auditors of Publick accounts” and, in the hand of John Tazewell, “1776 Decr. 5. read the first time. Decr. 9. Committed to Com. of the whole.”

TJ was appointed 15 Oct. to committee to bring in Bill; 5 Dec., Bill reported; 14 Dec., debated by House and amended; 16 Dec., passed by House; and 17 Dec., approved by Senate (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1776, 1828 edn., p. 14, 84, 90, 97, 98, 99). Bill as enacted was quite different from draft reported by the committee: it provided for three commissioners or auditors, who were to be appointed by joint ballot of both houses, were to take an oath of fidelity and an oath of office, and were to receive £200 per annum; nothing was said in the Act about their holding office during good behavior or during pleasure; and if any died, refused, or was unable to serve, the governor could appoint a substitute until the next session of the legislature (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 245–7).

1The words “his pleasure” are deleted in MS, and “good behaviour” interlined.

2The following is deleted in MS: “And be it further enacted that the Auditor so appointed shall receive the sum of  per annum for his services.”

3The preceding fifteen words are interlined in TJ’s hand.

4The preceding four words are interlined in TJ’s hand.

5The preceding two words are filled in in TJ’s hand.

6This clause is more consonant with tenure during pleasure, as first written in MS, than with tenure during good behavior; the incongruity disappeared, however, when all reference to tenure was deleted by amendment.

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